MacBeth: A Tale Told by an Idiot

by Lynn on February 13, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, 922 Queen St. E., Toronto. Presented by the Eldritch Theatre. Plays until Feb. 24, 2024.

Written by William Shakespeare

Conceived and performed by Eric Woolfe

Directed by Dylan Trowbridge

Designed by Melanie McNeil

A pair of Depends will be helpful in coping with the horror and hilarity of this inventive, smart, artful rendition of the play.

Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play about murder, ambition for power, psychological intrigue, witches, supernatural interference and the intense love of Macbeth for his wife, Lady Macbeth and vice versa.

In the creative hands and minds of actor/creator Eric Woolfe and his equally inspired director, Dylan Trowbridge, the play becomes MacBeth: A Tale Told by an Idiot, still full of murder, ambition for power, but with the addition of puppets, it becomes all of the above with the addition of hilarity.

A plaid stage curtain with shredded bits hangs down and the sides of the curtain are attached to the side walls to reveal a large, black caldron with many and various puppets arranged along a structure at the back. Endless kudos to designer Melanie McNeil who continues to top herself with inventive sets.

We are primed from the get-go what we are in for. A baby in puppet-form is carefully laid on a ledge of the caldron. MacBeth (Eric Woolfe), bald but with a blotch of purple/red blood on the top of his head, with drips down his forehead and sides, appears—wide-eyed and haunted—holding a dagger that he then stabs into the baby and slices it open. Fistfuls of red fluff-guts are hauled out of the wound and tossed all over the place. The guts are followed by a deck of cards that miraculously appears from the wound. The baby is tossed aside and magic card tricks ensue.

Welcome to the gory, weird, gruesomely funny, magic-filled world of creator Eric Woolfe.

Eric Woolfe plays MacBeth and manipulates and gives voice to a plethora of puppets that play all the other parts. It’s an education in puppetry. Woolfe uses finger puppets, hand puppets, stick puppets and head puppets just to name a few. Eric Woolfe wears his Lady MacBeth puppet on his head or held in his hand. This Lady MacBeth is one of the most striking, dramatic, stylish, controlled, haunted and driven Lady MacBeths, alive or otherwise, I have ever seen. And interspersed with the puppets is a healthy sprinkling of magic, either with magically appearing playing cards, or mysteriously disappearing coins that improbably appear over there, or other examples of dexterous tricks.

While Eric Woolfe and his gifted crew go for the “EEWWWWW” factor to horrify the audience or catch them unawares with a joke, a funny line or a reaction, Shakespeare’s play is served in this edited, swift-paced production. Irreverence might be the idea skimming the surface of the production, but serious attention to detail and rigor is the bedrock of everything Eric Woolfe creates. When he is acting with his puppet characters, he’s fully into the character of MacBeth. The lines are crisply delivered and the intention honestly conveyed. That goes for his performance of the other characters as well.

Humour and drama are serious business and both are beautifully realized in MacBeth: A Tale Told by an Idiot. It’s typical of the artistry of Eric Woolfe, and then some.

Eldritch Theatre Presents:

Runs until Feb. 24, 2024.

Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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